WILMINGTON -- At Coastal Horizons and treatment centers like it across the country, methadone is used to help heroin addicts and other drug users get over their withdrawal symptoms.
But the drug that helps addicts is increasingly being used as a prescription pain medication, and that has led to skyrocketing instances of abuse.
Kenny House, clinical director at Coastal Horizons, says they know the good that methadone can do, but they also understand the potential for abuse.
In the clinical setting, House says the center works to keep track of methadone by not supplying the drug in pill form and making sure only small doses are handed out. But those restrictions may not be in place when methadone is given as a prescription.
Methadone was part of a larger drug cocktail that contributed to the deaths of Anna Nicole Smith and her son, Daniel. The lethal combination of medications and other drugs is a familiar pattern of abuse, House said.
Despite the well-publicized deaths, those who use methadone properly are seeing benefits.
Pharmacist Gaye Moseman says she's seen patients get their lives back - thanks to methadone.
But while many use methadone properly, there are others breaking the law to abuse it.
One Wilmington pharmacy was robbed last summer by a man looking for drugs - including methadone.
And with the increasing abuse, changes in the law are coming.
Pharmacists in North Carolina will soon have to report the names, addresses, number of pills and other information of people who come to them for prescriptions.
House says the stricter laws are not methadone's fault. The real menace of methadone might be the people who are willing to twist what the drug was intended to do.